Written by Jyotsna Iyer, a second-year undergraduate student.
The Human Library is a concept and a movement that was founded by a person named Ronni Abergel in the year 2000, in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Now an institution that goes by the name ‘Human Library Organization,’ the movement has made its way to more than 80 countries across the globe, including India. In India, Human Libraries are available in about 10 cities including Indore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Delhi. These are mostly non-profit and event-based, where people can volunteer to either be human books or to be ‘readers.’
What’s the main idea?
The core idea behind this concept is to replace books with real people, who are referred to as ‘human books.’
Human libraries aim to create a safe space for dialogue and conversations, especially on topics that are considered to be taboos in society. The stories shared by the human books are their own real-life stories, and they are asked to be completely honest and unabashed about the details. Similarly, the readers are asked to be non-judgmental and as the organization’s motto states: ‘UnjudgeSomeone.’ With the goal to break stereotypes, taboos, and social divisions, the human books include people from different social backgrounds, people who have been subjected to prejudices due to a segment of their identity and survivors of various kinds of abuse.
Reading books is a one-way engagement, however, the human library is an interactive space where the readers can ask the books any question that comes to their mind. Difficult questions are promoted here, and one can seek the answer to any question without fearing judgment.
The books as well as the readers are kept anonymous to uphold the sense of freedom one experiences in a human library. We’ve all heard the quote “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and the human library has taken this principle to practical application. Many readers leave human libraries with a broader mindset than before, having unlearnt prejudices and learned or understood something new. There is something very human and unifying that arises from looking beyond labels that society imposes on a person, and hearing their story in their own words. The Human Library movement is a testament to how each and every story matters and can not only touch someone in a life-changing manner but also bring in a larger social change.